For the people who are know me it will come as no surprise that I’m writing a piece on a VRMMO light novel. A fan of the fantasy genre and the Isekai and VRMMO stories that fill it (especially here in the west), I spend a lot of time reading stories about heroes and other worlds.
One of the series I’m fond of is Infinite Dendrogram, a light novel series being published in English by J-Novel Club. They’ve just started releasing the 9th volume (the latest in Japan) and the opening battle got me thinking about how great main character Ray Starling is.
If you’ve not read the series before then I highly encourage you to and you can find out more at J-Novel Club’s page here. I’m not reviewing the series so I don’t really want to stray from the meat of the article by getting into what the story is about right now.
Now over the course of nine books we’ve seen Ray tackle a number of awful and testing situations. He’s defeated powerful bosses and brought down plots to do harm to the kingdom he belongs to, but he’s never felt like a true hero in the way he does in this volume. Always the main character but never quite breaking out of that mould, I’ve been fond of Ray but now he’s won my respect. As an orphanage is about to be burnt to the ground, by an enemy who I won’t name, Ray bursts onto the scene dressed like a demon but with a heroic shine in his eyes. When they say looks can be deceiving they certainly had Ray in mind, that’s for sure…
The thing is, generally speaking characters do good things because they’re in the right place at the right time. Either that or they’re just OP enough where there is no real risk to their lives and thus are always willing to take up a challenge. In Ray’s case none of these are true – well, except that his life isn’t really at risk because Infinite Dendrogram is not a death game. Anyway, Ray races onto the scene with no real guarantee that he’ll make it through the fight alive. If he dies he’ll be given a death penalty and unable to log back in for a set amount of time, at which point there is no one to save the orphans. Knowing this he runs into danger to put everything on the line to accomplish his goal. It’s life or death but Ray will do his best and put up a fantastic fight for his beliefs. This all comes with a heroic speech about how standing still is the worst thing you can do, naturally.
Honestly reading this back makes Ray sound kind of insufferable, but he’s actually not. In fact I’d go so far as to say he’s one of the protagonists I like best in this particular genre and certainly from among the books J-Novel Club publish from it. He’s down to earth and modest while also being a little dense. Honestly author Sakon Kaido has done a great job crafting him into a really likeable hero, someone who isn’t OP or too unrealistic. Credit is also due to translator Andrew Hodgson, who does a great job at giving Ray a distinct and fitting ‘voice’. That goes double for this volume, which is shaping up to be one of the best yet.
In a genre filled to the brim with unlikable and or likeable but cookie-cutter protagonist, it’s just nice to have someone a bit different. Ray certainly shares similar traits to these other protagonists, but he’s also better than them. A hero to send shivers down your spine and truly make you believe in the concept. I never thought that I’d be this excited about a volume of Infinite Dendrogram, but there is something special about the way its written and how things are progressing. I’m not sure Ray is going to be overcome all the tests ahead of him, and frankly the series isn’t shy about meddling with some dark concepts so it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s made to suffer – but that’s again. A true hero will raise again and so Ray will too.
Ultimately I just wanted to gush about how much I’m enjoying this book already, but I’ve never really talked about Infinite Dendrogram before either, so this seemed like a good opportunity, I really hope that the forthcoming anime adaption of Infinite Dendrogram does the series justice so you can all join in with my love for it!